South Africa releases draft shale gas regulations

Valve control wheels sit on pipework near the drill head, center, of the shale gas drilling rig operated by Exalo Drilling SA, the oil and gas exploration unit of Poland’s PGNiG, also known as Polskie Gornictwo Naftowe I Gazownictwo SA, in Lubocino, Poland, on Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013. San Leon Energy Plc., an oil and gas explorer with four licenses in Spain, said some of the shale it’s studying is comparable to rock in Poland, where it’s a leader in using hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Photographer: Bartek Sadowski/Bloomberg via Getty Images

CAPE TOWN, July 14 (Reuters) – South Africa has released new draft rules for public comment for onshore shale gas fracking, four years after the Supreme Court of Appeal set aside regulations governing hydraulic fracturing in the ecologically sensitive Karoo region.

The proposed regulations and minimum requirements apply to the exploration and production of onshore oil and gas that requires hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, a process of extracting natural gas from shale rock layers by creating cracks to allow the gas to escape.

A decade ago, the Karoo sparked intense interest from companies including Shell SHEL.L, Sasol SOLJ.J and Falcon Oil & Gas FO.V, but farmers and environmentalists went to court to challenge any drilling in the vast semi-arid region, which saw enthusiasm wane amid regulatory uncertainty.

Last year, the Minister of Energy told lawmakers that South Africa’s Council for Geosciences had hit pockets of shale gas as part of ongoing tests in the region. Read full story

“The regulations identify prohibited activities and prohibited geographic areas for the use of hydraulic fracturing technology, which include the use of potable water for hydraulic fracturing activities and the use of municipal water treatment facilities for the disposal of wastes from hydraulic fracturing operations,” said the department of fisheries, forestry and environment.

In a statement released on Wednesday, the department said an environmental authorization was required for each phase of the process, including seismic surveys without fracking and the production phase.

Suffering some of its worst power cuts since it started in 2007, South Africa wants to diversify its energy mix away from aging coal-fired power plants prone to breakdowns and help reduce harmful emissions from the continent’s top polluter. Read full story

In 2017, geologists at the University of Johannesburg and three other institutions estimated the gas resource in the Karoo was probably 13 trillion cubic feet (tcf), the bottom of a range of estimates that had put deposits between 13 tcf to 390 tcf.

(Reporting by Wendell Roelf; Editing by Bhargav Acharya and Mark Potter)

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